Do you ever get the feeling that you’re being followed? I do. Back home I used to spend most of my nights (and money) out in Kingston-upon-Thames getting inebriated. The routine generally required me to walk along the Thames riverbank to get home at the end of the proceedings, or if I was feeling brash, through a non-too-pleasant council estate. It never ever used to bother me, even the time when a delightful fellow leapt from a bush with a knife and an accent, no drama. Carry on my good man.
However, as I power through my late 20’s I have become more aware of the dangers others can pose, so I tread with caution. Sadly my prudence must give way to the fact that sometimes I need to buy things, and this – rather desolately – means that I have to go into shops. And that can be scarier than walking along the riverbanks of London’s mugger hideout on a dark foggy night under a full moon, on Friday 13th.
Last week I needed a t-shirt. Well a polo shirt. So I popped along to Mall of the Emirates in TooManyFlyOversNotEnoughSignsCity, or Dubai to you and me. The first shop I visited was fairly neutral with all the garments hanging on either side. As I approached the rack of choice my sixth sense that I was being followed pricked up. I saw in the corner of my eye that indeed I was being watched. No sooner than I could get to the other side was I quite rudely asked if I needed any help. I left immediately.
The next shop I went into was very boisterous. For reasons I don’t fully understand they insisted on playing some sort of very loud electro music, but still I traversed their wood-strip floor with a degree of trepidation and proceeded to study the goods. There it was again. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and sure enough, after turning to my left there she was, the shop assistant, staring at me as if I had just parked my spaceship in the food court. “Sir you need any help?” I was gone in a flash.
The next stop was a slightly more upmarket place, my confidence was high that my mission would end here. I went over to the rack of choice to examine the material and stitching of the garments. As I sifted through the hanging items I happened across a pair of eyes staring back at me through the polyester and cotton undergrowth… “Yes Sir can I help?” See ya.
I don’t get it. Why do they all do this? If I enter a shop then I like to be left alone. In actual fact I find it deeply insulting if I’m asked for help. It’s a clothes shop so there is a high probability that I am looking at clothes. No, I’m an idiot, I need help in a clothes shop; do you have any car batteries? I have no issue at all if the shop assistant says “Good morning” to me, that’s fine. But stay over there behind your counter and stop stalking me around the shop, because I will leave and you will have just cost your firm 200 Dirhams.
So what are we all going to do to tackle this menace, this scourge of society? The problem is deeply rooted and as far as I can tell is evident in every single retail outlet without exception. This means that logistically speaking we can’t cut the head off the snake. We must act on the individuals as we encounter them by giving them a taste of their own medicine and applying guerrilla tactics . So for example, the next time you enter a shop, home in on the nearest attendant and invade their personal space. No touching, never touching. Just get up close and personal. When they move, follow them. Mirror their every move. Ask them if they need any help and don’t give them any if they say yes. If we all work together then I’m confident that the enemy will soon come to realise how irritating their stalking actions really are. Giveth to them what hath been giveth to you.
Nice idea actually, I wonder if the same approach would work on those funny chaps with the knives and accents that hang out by the Thames…